Somali pirates released a Japanese cargo ship and crew late Thursday following the payment of a ransom.

The non-governmental group Ecoterra announced the release of the MT Chemstar Venus in a statement Friday.

The Panamanian registered vessel was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in mid-November last year. Since then pirates had held the ship and the 23 crew.

Also on Thursday, a Russian warship captured 10 pirates as they tried to intercept an Iranian fishing trawler. The Russian navy said in a statement weapons including rocket launchers and automatic weapon were seized during the raid.

Separately, the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said the USS Vella Gulf seized nine suspected pirates Thursday off the coast of Somalia after responding to a distress call from a merchant vessel.

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said the U.S. Navy will keep the suspected pirates in detention while U.S. officials investigate the incident.

The United States recently signed an agreement with Kenya allowing alleged pirates to be prosecuted in Kenya. The move has led U.S. Navy ships in the area to take a more aggressive approach, capturing and detaining suspected pirates, rather than simply releasing them.  

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.